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Messi Benched, Coutinho To Start, In Barcelona’s Catalan Derby With Espanyol

Messi Benched, Coutinho To Start, In Barcelona’s Catalan Derby With Espanyol

La Liga topscorer Lionel Messi has been named among the substitutes for Barcelona’s derby game at Espanyol on Sunday, the first time the Argentina superstar has not started a LaLiga game this season.

With Barca enjoying an 11-point lead at the top of the table, Ernesto Valverde likely has an eye on Thursday’s Copa del Rey semi-final with Valencia.

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In Messi’s absence, Paco Alcacer starts his fifth league game of the campaign, with Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho also named in attack.

Full-backs Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto are also among the subs, with Nelson Semedo and Lucas Digne starting for Barca at RCDE Stadium.

Zenith Ziva

Messi scored a hat-trick in the reverse fixture, which Barca won 5-0 in September.

Barca have a 1-0 lead going into the second leg of the Copa semi-final with Valencia, Messi having set up Suarez at Camp Nou for the only goal of the game.

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